Thursday, November 23, 2017

Nisei

Film: Go for Broke!
Format: Internet video on laptop.

So what’s a country to do when it claims to be founded on freedom for all and has a track record of being exactly opposite that? Well, beyond attempting to change as much as possible in the right direction, it starts to produce media of various types to help spur that change. Go for Broke! is a post-World War II propaganda film, this time dedicated not to hyping up the victory or even promoting the armed forces in general, but to highlight the service of a specific group of American citizens. Specifically, this is a film about Japanese-American soldiers fighting in Europe. That it gets only part-way to the message it wants to have and still contains a sizable dollop of racism is unfortunate. But hey, baby steps, right?

What this means in terms of the actual film we are presented with is that we’re going to be spending a good amount of time among the men of the 442nd, but we’re going to be concerned in no small part with their white and initially racist lieutenant, Michael Grayson (Van Johnson). Grayson is a Texas boy and a “90-day Wonder,” meaning he was pushed through officer training. When out, he is assigned to the 442nd in charge of a group of Japanese-Americans from both Hawaii (known as Buta-heads) and the mainland (called Katonks), and Grayson is not pleased with this arrangement.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wednesday Horror: Open Water

Film: Open Water
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

It takes a certain kind of balls to make a shark movie these days. I get it, but it’s a massive risk. The minute you put people in the water and have sharks in the area, you’re going to be compared with Jaws on some level. Let’s be honest: most movies are not going to compare well with Jaws in general, and even a good shark movie is going to pale in comparison. When it comes to the sharks, Open Water is a bit of a bait and switch. There are sharks here, but they’re just a small part of the total story.

Prepare for a bit of a slow open. Susan Watkins (Blanchard Ryan) and Daniel Kintner (Daniel Travis) have busy lives and demanding jobs, which means they don’t get to spend a great deal of time together. Hoping to improve their relationship, the pair takes a vacation to the Caribbean to go scuba diving. Thanks to the magic of movies, the two are quickly on an island and then on a dive boat heading out to deep water. Rather than staying with the group, the two go off on their own. Thanks to a mix-up involving another passenger, the count of divers gets mixed up and Daniel and Susan are left behind in the open ocean.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Girl Week 2017: Frida

Film: Frida
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on laptop.

Dell over at Dell on Movies is hosting his third annual Girl Week, featuring only movies that have female protagonists. I don’t do a lot of blogathons. It’s not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t generally have a way to fit them into my normal posting schedule. In this case, though, all I needed was a film with a female protagonist. That’s not hard, and it just so happened that Frida was sitting on my desk.

Frida is the biopic of surrealist artist Frida Kahlo, most famous for endless self-portraits and her unibrow. As is often the case, I went into this knowing very little. I knew that Salma Hayek was nominated for Best Actress for the role. I knew Kahlo was a painter, and pretty much that’s where my knowledge stopped.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Transplants

Film: Dirty Pretty Things
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

I go into a lot of movies pretty cold. As I get closer and closer to finishing my Oscar lists, I set moderate goals for myself each month. One of those goals right now is to close out a few films from years where I still have too many films remaining. I don’t want to end this with a bunch of films from the same year, so at least some of my decisions are based on filling in gaps on years that I have neglected. That’s literally the only reason that Dirty Pretty Things showed up in the mail. Thus it was a bit depressing but hardly shocking when, about halfway through, there’s a clear instance of sexual misconduct. I promise, we’ll get there eventually.

Once I got the film, though, I was pleased and looked forward to watching it. It has two actors I love (Chiwetel Ejiofor and Audrey Tautou) in the leads and two more (Sophie Okonedo and Benedict Wong) in supporting roles. It’s directed by Stephen Frears, whose work I have generally liked very much and loved at times. So, off the bat, I was prepared for this to be a film that had a great deal going for it.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Not Another War Movie

Film: Seven Beauties (Pasqualino Settebellezze)
Format: Internet video on laptop.

With the movies that are on my Oscar list that are harder to find, I sometimes have to make some sacrifices. Watching a YouTube version of the film is one of those sacrifices. Another is finding a clearly foreign movie only available dubbed rather than subtitled. There’s not much to be done about that, though. Seven Beauties (or Pasqualino Settebellezze) is a true piece of cinematic history, and you don’t really get those that often. Director Lina Wertmuller was the first woman nominated for a Best Director Oscar.

The film is told in a series of flashbacks from the point of view of our main character, Pasqualino Frafuso (Ginacarlo Giannini), better known as Pasqualino Settebellezze, or Pasqualino Seven Beauties. The name comes from the fact that he has been forced to take charge of his mother and seven sisters, all of whom are fairly homely to downright unattractive. Thus his name is sarcastic at best. What he wants more than anything is to marry his sisters off, something that is nearly impossible because of their looks.